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July 24, 2014

NPR Cites ILR in Highlighting Impact of ‘Garlock’ Bankruptcy Ruling

National Public Radio featured ILR Executive Vice President Harold Kim in a story about the landmark “Garlock” decision handed down earlier this year.

As NPR reports, in that decision, federal bankruptcy Judge George R. Hodges of the West District of North Carolina “laid out how lawyers for asbestos plaintiffs withheld evidence and misled courts in old cases against a gasket manufacturer called Garlock.”

As the story points out, Judge Hodges detailed “some of the shenanigans” that helped drive Garlock into bankruptcy by citing 15 separate cases, including:

  • In Texas, a plaintiff said his only exposure to asbestos was from Garlock after his lawyers filed a claim with another company. 
  • In California, a plaintiff’s lawyers misled a jury to make Garlock look worse. 
  • In Philadelphia, lawyers made evidence disappear of their client’s exposure to 20 different asbestos products.

Hodges later wrote that “evidence was withheld in each and every one” of these cases.

NPR reports that the Garlock decision is drawing the attention of lawmakers and other organizations across the country.

For example, Hodges’ order was the topic of a recent law journal article by former Delaware judge, Peggy Ableman, who says the order should be “required reading for judges overseeing asbestos cases.”

“There’s definitely been a lot of shenanigans going on that have gone undetected,” Ableman told NPR. “And the ease with which they were almost able to pull it off leads me to believe it’s done more frequently.”

ILR’s Harold Kim also told NPR that the Garlock order has helped the cause of asbestos trust transparency reform in other states, as well.

“After the Garlock decision came out, it really helped build momentum for the Wisconsin law that was passed and signed in the spring of this year,” said Kim, referring to AB 19, signed into law in April by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

AB 19 requires greater transparency from tort plaintiffs who may also pursue claims with asbestos personal injury settlement trusts.

NPR points out that U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has also cited Garlock as part of his argument for his legislation, the “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2014” (S. 2319). This legislation, a version of which was passed in the House last year, would require asbestos personal injury settlement trusts, which currently operate with little oversight and transparency, to report on their claims.

Listen to the full report here.

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